Provides: Camera app + camera buttons and mount Developer:Belkin Minimum System Requirements: iPhone 4/4s or iPod touch 4, LiveAction app (free) Review Device: iPhone 4 Price: $49.99 Availability: Out now
The iPhone, in its various forms, has quickly become a popular point-and-shoot camera, but it’s not without its flaws; namely, that it can be a little awkward to hold steady and take a photo by pressing the screen or volume-up button. Belkin’s attempt to solve this problem is the LiveAction Camera Grip, a snap on accessory that gives your iPhone a more SLR-like handle, buttons, and mounting socket.
The LiveAction Camera Grip (LACG) is made from matte black plastic and snaps easily over the iPhone dock (so, no, you can’t use it with a case). It has a slightly rubbery, rounded feel that doesn’t dig into your fingers or palm, but still allows you to hold the iPhone steadily. There are two buttons: a black one for photo and a smaller red one for video. The black button is slightly raised from the grip and the video button is set flush, so there’s little chance of confusing them. The LiveAction app (available as a free download) will automatically detect which button is pressed and take a shot or film, without the need to toggle like in the iOS Camera app. It was comfortable to use, and though the socket used to mount it on a tripod was off-center, it still held the iPhone securely.
But the LiveAction camera grip is not without problems. Twice the camera button got stuck after I pressed it down, and I had to fish it out with a penknife before I could take pictures.
The big problem, though is the integration with the LiveAction app itself. The LACG only works with the LiveAction app, which is unfortunate as I have several camera apps I like to use for different moods (Hipstamatic, Instagram) as well as video apps that give me more pro-level recording options. The larger problem with this lock-in is more subtle, but more annoying; since it only works with the app, you can’t use the LACG to take quick shots. You have to wake the phone, unlock it, find and open the LiveAction app, then take your photo.
Also, the app is surprisingly spare in its settings; there’s no option to automatically save your photos to the Camera Roll (where they can be saved to iCloud). You have to go into the Gallery, choose the photos, select share, then send them to the roll (there is also an option to share them to Facebook). Also, when first using the app, the response that, yes, you have taken a photo can be slow for the first shot or two.
The Belkin LiveAction Camera Grip works fine, don’t get me wrong; holding it makes your iPhone feel like you’re holding a point-and-click or a very light DSLR camera body. It certainly takes some of the worry out of thinking, “I have to make sure I don’t move the camera as I try to snap this shot.” But balanced against the integration issues and the inability to use a case, users will have to carefully consider if the negatives outweigh the benefits.
A good way to judge how much you need this app? Ask yourself how often you use a tripod when taking photos.